With his short, wavy hair, loose white sweater and unbuttoned shirt, Jonathan Richman looked like a singing frat brother from "American Bandstand," circa 1959. At the Psyche Delly last night, Richman spoke/sang his songs of unadulterated romance with two hand-clapping, syllable-singing women in the doo-wop style of 1959. With his deliberate naivete and undeniable sincerity, Richman restored uncynical, unironic love to rock 'n' roll.
Richmand stood at the microphone with his glittering blue eyes and rosy cheeks and said: "Please don't try to change to please me. I don't want a slave; I want a pal." Then he snapped his fingers; his rhythm trio kicked off the song, and the two women began their "ooh-wah, ooh-wah." The audience cracked up. Richman stopped the music and said, "I heard some laughter. Who thinks I'm being sarcastic?" Shouts. "Well, you're wrong, I don't do that."
He didn't. His whole show was marked by awkward but affecting sincerity. It was far different music from the Velvet Underground-inspired Jonathan Richman & the Modern Lovers of 1972. There isn't even a guitar in the new band, formed five months ago after Richman's years as a soloist. The same eccentric style that made Richman a true original nine years ago was still present in the new doo-wop band.